Bedford and District Handicapped Riders Association (BDHRA) has been recognised with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service or 2015.
It is the highest accolade a voluntary group can receive.
Trustee Rebecca Twigden said: “We’re all thrilled, delighted, honoured and excited.
“But the recognition really belongs to four very special ladies whose voluntary service adds up to a massive 167 years.
“They are Jean Bedford, Helen Dunster, Sue Hayhurst and Pat Wand who’ve made a huge contribution between them.”
She added: “We rely on contributions and have lots of local support. This will really help with fundraising activites as we’re allowed to use the logo.”
The award will be presented by Bedfordshire’s Lord Lieutenant Helen Nellis at a special ceremony.
The history of BDHRA is inxectricably linked to two indomitable women – its late founder, Miriam Godber, and current trustee and longstanding volunteer Jean Bedford, who was herself awarded an MBE last year.
As a child 60 years ago, Jean was seriously injured in a road traffic accident which left her unable to walk and in a wheechair.
Miriam – a keen horsewoman – had the inspirational idea that if the little girl rode regularly, the movement of the horse would work its magic on the depleted muscles and the leg would grow stronger, which is exactly what happened.
BDHRA started operating in Goldington in 1961, then moved in 1968 to the grounds of Park Hospital in Moggerhanger where enough money was raised to build an indoor riding school.
Trustee Ivan Twigden donated the riding stables at the Association’s current purpose-built centre in Willington, which was opened by Princess Anne in 1992.
It has recently undergone a transformation after funding was obtained for a modern indoor surface and stalls with automatic water systems.
It’s run by volunteers and is open on Wednesdays during term and on Thursday evenings in the summer. BDHRA is keen to welcome new volunteers, particularly young ones.
Every week 118 disabled people including children aged from five to 18 are given an opportunity to ride. It’s physiotherapy in a fun, subtle way – providing a massive workout of the hips, pelvic area and leg muscles which helps develop motor and balance skills.
> For more information visit www.bdhra.co.uk